Favorite Fiction of 2014

by Kim on December 17, 2014 · 11 comments

Although the end of 2014 is still a couple of weeks away, I like to get my end of the year book lists written and posted before the holidays — by the time I get back from Christmas travel, I’m so busy thinking about the new year that it’s hard to get myself to go back.

First up, I’m sharing my favorite fiction reads of 2014. It’s important to note a few things about this list. First, it doesn’t include just books published in 2014, it’s pulled from all the books I read this year. However, now that I look closely, it seems that most of them actually were new releases this year… whatever!

Second, I don’t think these books are necessarily the best books of the year, they’re just the books that I loved most. And third, they’re listed in no particular order — I loved each of them nearly equally as much. With all those caveats off the table, on to the list!

favorite fiction 1

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – This inventive take on the post-apocalyptic novel grabbed me at the first page and didn’t let go. Reading straight through it during the fall Readathon is one of my top reading experiences of the year. (Review)

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng – I just finished this book a few days ago and can’t stop thinking about it. It’s a haunting look at how difficult it can be to communicate with the people we love, as well as a thoughtful look at the challenges facing a middle class, mixed-race family in the late 1970s. It was so good.

Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood – This is the first short story collection I’ve read in a long while that seemed to hit me perfectly. Atwood is a masterful storyteller and really infuses every piece in this collection with a sense of past and future. (Review)

The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman – The Magicians trilogy is probably not for everyone, but it was a perfect trilogy for me. I loved the way this book concluded these stories and I’m excited to see what Grossman works on next.

favorite fiction 2

The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman – This quiet novel, about a thirty-something bookstore owner named Tooly digging into her past, didn’t get as much love and I thought it might. The book alternates between three threads, sharing Tooly’s history and exploring how she got to where she is. I read this one over my birthday weekend in July and loved it.

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo – This is another final book in a trilogy, this one a young adult fantasy set in a world much like Imperial Russia. It has a whip-smart, sarcastic, challenging main character and a bunch of vivid supporting cast members. It’s such a fun series. (Review)

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters – I loved the way this book felt like three stories in one, held together by a distinct and well-drawn main character. (Review)

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona StaplesSaga is one of the strangest most wonderful comic book series I’m struggling to describe the plot, so I’ll send you to Wikipedia and just say that this is so good and you should start reading it now.

Whew! It really was a wonderful year in fiction reading. I’ll be back at the beginning of next week with my list of top nonfiction for the year, sneaking that list in just before the holidays begin.

What was the best novel you read this year?

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Currently | Catching Up

by Kim on December 14, 2014 · 23 comments

currently december 14 2014

Briefly | I missed checking in the last two Sundays because I was at my parents house — first for Thanksgiving, then for a volunteering event and my mom’s annual Christmas party. I thought about blogging from the road, but figured I could just catch up when I get back. Consider this three weeks of updates mashed into one!

Time and Place | 11 a.m. at my desk, writing on my failing laptop — I got a hard drive error last week that bumped up my search for a new one. Everything is backed up, so I’m just hoping it’ll hang on until after the holidays.

Eating and Drinking | Raspberries (not very good… out of season) and water. We had friends over for a game night last night and I ended up staying up way too late and drinking a little too much wine… lots of water today.

Reading | I’ve had some really good and some rather disappointing reading in the last few weeks. I finished The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber over Thanksgiving and thought it was really lovely. I want to re-read the end because I flew through it in one of those late-night reading binges. I also finished Descent by Tim Johnson (Jan. 6 from Algonquin), but didn’t love it. I thought the writing was overdone and the ending was unsatisfying. But other people with great taste in books have raved about it… so I’ll be in the minority on that.

On the nonfiction side, I finally finished 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam. The book looks at how to maximize time over the course of a week (168 hours) and thinking about ways to make sure your time is invested in the things that truly matter. She encourages people to keep a time log for a week. The results from mine have been surprising to me. I’m still thinking about what the information means for my goals for 2015 — more to come on that!

Watching | Now that most of my favorite shows are on a holiday hiatus (oh my gosh, The Flash and Arrow were incredibly good this week) I decided to re-watch season six of Parks and Recreation. This Parks and Rec clip war between two of my favorite tv/culture critics Linda Holmes and Alan Sepinwall made my week.

Listening | I finally finished Yes, Please by Amy Poehler. I really loved it in a way that isn’t quite coherent yet.

Making | While I was out of the office for Thanksgiving, my coworkers did some decorating in my office. I think that tree is pretty awesome.

Cooking | I’m going to try this recipe for Crock Pot Ranchero Chicken today. Iowa Girl Eats is one of my favorite food blogs because her recipes are relatively easy and always turn out delicious.

Blogging | Over the last couple weeks, I shared mini-reviews of The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and linked out to a freelance review of What Stays in Vegas by Adam Tanner. I also wrote about some of the backlist television shows that I binged on this year.

Promoting | I’ve really been enjoying the posts connected with A Month of Favorites is a December-long celebration hosted by Andi (Estella’s Revenge), Tanya (Girl XOXO) and T (Traveling with T). I’m going to look through the topics this afternoon and see if any spark my creative juices.

Hating | Work was a little stressful this week. We are switching layout software at the paper, and the transition has been… not entirely smooth. We survived, but getting there frayed my patience a bit.

Loving | My sister and I took my mom to see Irving Berlin’s White Christmas for her Christmas present. It was such a fun thing to do together — White Christmas is one of her favorite movies that we watch together almost every year.

Avoiding | I have all my Christmas shopping done (yay!), but I need to wrap all of the presents (boo!). I’m thinking about doing that while the Vikings play later this afternoon.

Anticipating | I put up our small collection of Christmas decorations this week. I am certain that Hannah is going to take down the Christmas tree soon. But there’s nothing of value hanging on it, so we’ll just deal with it when the time comes.

Happy Sunday, everyone! What are you reading today?

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#AMonthofFaves: My Backlist TV Binges

December 11, 2014 Personal

A Month of Favorites is a December-long celebration hosted by Andi (Estella’s Revenge), Tanya (Girl XOXO) and T (Traveling with T) to highlight the best bookish and non-bookish experiences throughout the year. I haven’t really been participating up until now, but the topic today — open for five favorite of anything — was too tempting […]

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Looking at ‘What Stays in Vegas’ and Your Personal Data

December 9, 2014 Book Review

In addition to writing about books here at the blog, I’m also lucky enough to do some freelance reviewing. Most of it is for The Cap Times, a weekly news site in Madison, Wisconsin. I interned at the paper when I was in grad school and continued to do some writing about books when I lived […]

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Reviewletts: ‘Station Eleven’ and ‘The Paying Guests’

December 4, 2014 Book Review

One of the unexpected benefits of slowing down my blogging pace this year is that I’ve only been reviewing books that I really feel compelled to talk about. Today I’ve got two books that I want to shout about from the rooftops and that, I’m almost certain, will make my favorite fiction of the year […]

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November 2014 Reading Wrap Up and a Look to December

December 2, 2014 Monthly Review

I know that pretty much everyone says this, but seriously, how can it be December already? I honestly can’t account for where the time has gone, although I feel like it’s been a generally good year. But December? Seriously? I can’t get my head around it. November was a busy month, with work, with life, […]

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Books in My Bag: Thanksgiving Edition

November 26, 2014 Book List

Later this afternoon, as soon as we can both get off work, the boyfriend and I heading back to my parents’ house in the Twin Cities for Thanksgiving. My family has a pretty average Thanksgiving celebration — turkey and all the fixings, plus football on tv and long afternoon naps. My sister and I might head out […]

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Nonfiction November: Old Books and New Books

November 24, 2014 Communities

Oh, November, You’ve gone so quickly. I’m sad about that, since talking about nonfiction all month has been so fun. The host for our final week of Nonfiction November is Katie (Doing Dewey). The purpose of this week is to look back on the month and share some of the books that caught your attention: New to […]

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Currently | “Warm” Weather and Book Mail

November 23, 2014 Currently

Time and Place | About 8:30 a.m. at my desk, nothing special here. Eating and Drinking |  Black tea. Reading | I had another slow reading week. I finished Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand yesterday morning, but that’s it. I haven’t decided what I want to read next, but I got several good choices in the mail this week: The Unspeakable by […]

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Readalong: ‘The Restless Sleep’ by Stacy Horn

November 19, 2014 Book Review

I hate starting out blog posts with apologies, but this tweet from Andi (Estella’s Revenge) pretty much sums up life over the last couple of weeks: Why did the “I’m too busy to breathe” slumps have to hit during #nonficnov? — Andi Miller (@estellasrevenge) November 17, 2014 I had high hopes for a thoughtful, nuanced […]

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